Warren Buffett's Simple, Boring, and Willpowered Formula for Incredible Financial Success

“This is it!”

Thought a young Warren Buffet as he picked up a book that would change his life forever.

Until that point, Buffett was far from what many would consider a future success.

He was a rebellious kid who hated "pointless schoolwork". He also hated the fact that he was forced to move from his home in Omaha to Washington DC when his father was elected to Congress.

So he fell in with a bad group of people and started making bad decisions.

He had poor grades.

He ran away from home several times. 

He even shoplifted sporting goods that he sold on the black market!

But there was always one glimmer of hope in Buffett, and that was his prospects of becoming a successful businessman.

Buffett the child prodigy

At the age of 11, he bought his first stock, regretting that he didn't invest sooner.

At the age of 13, he bought a paper route and filed his own income tax return – making sure to write off his bicycle as a business expense.

At the age of 15, he used the proceeds from various ventures like selling racing tip sheets and pinball machines, to buy a 40-acre Nebraska farm as an investment property.

He continued to make various investments in real-estate, coin-operated machines, and the stock market...but that all came grinding to a halt he picked up The Intelligent Investor. [1]

This book – and the more thorough version titled Security Analysisexplained in depth the “holes” in the stock market that Buffett didn't know about. And it showed how an intelligent investor can find companies that the market undervalues. [2]

When Buffett read that book, he realized how much opportunity was missing out on all of these years.

Just as he regretted not making an investment before 11, he also regretted having wasted all of this time and money on stocks that were overvalued.

So he vowed at that moment he would not make another investment until he understood every single line of the 725 page book. So he read the book again...and again….and again.

He willed himself to read the book 12 times before making another investment!


After turning that book into his personal “Bible” for the world of investing, Buffet then sought out to learn as much as he could from the man who actually wrote it – Benjamin Graham.

So, after graduating from the University of Nebraska, he applied to get his MBA from Columbia University in New York where Graham was a professor.

Then in the Spring of 1951, Buffett had the opportunity to take Graham’s class and seized his moment to impress him. He answered almost every question asked to the class – even reciting lines from Graham’s book!

When Graham was a young man trying to make it on Wall Street, he faced extreme prejudice from the investment community for being Jewish. So until that point, he was committed to primarily mentoring young Jewish students who faced similar prejudice.

But he could not help but be impressed by the passion and work ethic of Buffett. Here was a kid that knew his philosophy as well as he did, and probably could recite the book even better!

So Graham decided to give up his precious time and desire to focus primarily on young Jewish students, and took Buffett under his wing.

That mentorship would help mold the young Buffett into one of the brightest financial minds the world has ever seen. And he was able to attain it because of his willpower. The same willpower that would define his investment philosophy and success. [1]

How Buffett used his willpower for financial success

Buffett claims that he has been "hardwired since birth to allocate capital". [3]

However, while his passion for investing is certainly real, his story proves that he cannot claim that talent alone is what led to his success. In reality it was his willpower. 

Here is how Buffett used his willpower to achieve extraordinary financial success. 


Once Buffett realized the value of The Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis, he used his "Will Power" to read it over and over again until he understood absolutely every aspect of the book. [4

He knew it so well, in fact, that he could quote from the 725 page book even better than the man who wrote it!

Now, you may think that given his passion for investing, he probably enjoyed the book. That reading it was pleasurable to him, not boring.

While that may be true for the first, second, or even the sixth time reading it, but it is probably safe to say that even Buffett was bored by the textbook material on the tenth or eleventh time reading it.

However, he embraced that boredom because he knew how important the book was.

This idea of embracing boredom set the tone for his entire investing career. He was willing to read about boring industries like textiles and manufacturing, while others were seduced by more exciting companies like those in technology. 

This was even credited by Yahoo Finance who said:

“If Buffett’s ‘formula’ could be described in a word, that word would be ‘boring.’ Wonderfully, profitably, enjoyably boring.”

Hard work alone is not always what separates the truly excellent performers.

Those like Buffett who achieve extraordinary success do not just work hard, they work hard on the dry, boring, things that no one else wants to do. 

For example, I believe that citing my sources is what truly separates Willpowered from other self-improvement blogs out there.

Other blogs may be more interesting, or even have better ideas than mine. But readers can trust what I say just a little bit more because they know that citing my sources means I've done the boring research to back up my ideas with science. 

Whatever your goal or ambition, remember that the boring work is sometimes the most important.


"Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy." - Warren Buffett

Buffett's success can also be attributed to his "Won't Power". While others got excited by the bull markets and the potential "quick scores", he held back his capital during boom times - always being fearful that the crash was right around the corner. 

So he didn't bet big on the technology booms of the 20th century.

He didn't bet big on the Internet boom.

And he bided his time until the market crashed and he could buy companies cheap.

Despite the apparent growth that was on the table, he was never impulsive. Everything he did was calculated to maximize his opportunity and decrease his chances of losing vast amounts of capital.

The best case of this is when he read The Intelligent Investor and vowed that he would not invest again until he knew every aspect of it and Graham's more detailed text - Security Analysis. 

After reading that, he knew he was missing opportunity, and he had the will to hold back until he had the knowledge to maximize it.

It's not easy to hold yourself back when things seem to be going well; whether that is in the stock market, or any other goal. That is why so many of us overdo it and try to quit smoking, lose weight, and get ahead in our careers all at the same time!

It is tempting to want big results fast. But you must hold back your desire to change everything all at once, and embrace the long run. Small changes over long periods of time equal big improvements. [5]


Despite all of his willpower, despite all of his success as a young businessman, and despite the fact that he would have probably been successful no matter what; Warren Buffett would not have become the world's richest man without guidance.

He recognized how much of an impact Benjamin Graham could have on his success. So he didn't just want to read his books, he wanted to learn from the man himself. So he worked relentlessly to earn his mentorship. 

After reading Graham's books, he set his sights on becoming his student at Columbia - not exactly an easy MBA program to get into. 

So Buffett buckled down in school, he earned great grades, and entered Columbia with the sole mission of learning from the man who wrote the book that changed his life.

Then when he entered Graham's class, he seized his moment. 

By knowing Graham's philosophy as well as Graham himself, he not only set himself apart from the rest of the class, he impressed Graham so much that Graham went against his own principles of only mentoring young Jewish students. 

Thus creating for himself an apprenticeship with Graham that would influence his success even to this day. 

We all have people we admire, but few of us have the willpower to do what it takes to actually earn their guidance. Buffett recognized how big of an influence Graham could have on his life, and focused on becoming his protege no matter what. 

Buffett is proof that there is no mentor that is too great for you to personally learn from. 

No matter who you wish to learn from, there is a path available to becoming their student. As long as you have the will to go above and beyond to gain their attention and respect. Just as Buffett did with Graham.


Warren Buffett is often cited as being a child prodigy that was obviously wired since birth with extraordinary talent. After all, what 11 year-old invests in the stock market? What 15 year-old owns property? 

However, saying that it was "talent" alone that led to Buffett's success dismisses entirely the willpower that he used to become the Warren Buffett that we know today. 

He may have been talented, but he also had the willpower to do the boring things others wouldn't, to hold back from being impulsive, and to focus on gaining a mentorship with one of the best financial minds in the country.

And no amount of talent can make up for that.